Recent History – 1999
March 9, 1999
By Mike Leschart, Daily News Staff
Doug Patterson sits in the back of what was once his father’s store, surrounded by piles of merchandise that will soon be sold at clearance prices. He is explaining why, after supporting three generations of his family, the business must soon close.
He repeats that economic stress is not the major factor — Jack Patterson’s Menswear simply ran out of family members willing to take over the store.
The business, which opened in 1932 and has since become something of an icon in Dawson Creek, will begin its final clearing sale on Thursday. Once everything is gone, the business will close for good. It will be a sad day for owners Patterson and Neil Brennan, but Patterson says they simply have no other options.
“We’ve pretty well run out of family,” he says. “It’s something that we’ve been thinking about for a while because we knew that Neil was going to retire. We kind of hoped that we could work it, keep going, but it’s just not going to work out.”
Originally a community general store founded by Jack Patterson, Doug’s uncle, the merchandise shifted to menswear in 1945. In 1962, Brennan took control with partner Gus Patterson, Jack’s brother and Doug’s father.
Doug bought his father’s share of the business in 1980, and has run the business with Brennan ever since.
But now, with Brennan about to retire, Patterson says he simply can’t run the store alone, and no other family members are interested in continuing the long tradition. After supporting three generations of family, the store will close whenever the clearance sale depletes the stock.
“If we sell it all in two weeks we’ll be done in two weeks,” Patterson says.
He is aware of the problems facing retailers in the area, and the competition local businesses face with massive Grande Prairie chain stores, but he emphasizes that there is business to be done in Dawson Creek. The trend may have caused some local business casualties, but Jack PattersonÕs is not one of them.
“We’re not finished because the business is not here anymore,” he says. “Someone can certainly make a living doing this business. It’s supported three families for a good number of years.”
To back his claim, Patterson produces a Chamber of Commerce economic assessment from 1975. The problems listed mirror those usually described by local business owners today — often after they’ve decided to close their store.
The traffic patterns have changed, he says, but the population loss in Tumbler Ridge is an often overlooked factor. Three hundred people will be missed in any business environment. People are drawn to the larger chain stores in Grande Prairie — there’s no denying it. But he emphasizes that business is not drying up in Dawson Creek.
“That’s what they were talking about 25 years ago, but we’ve been here for 25 years haven’t we?” he asks. “There’s still business to be done here; we’re closed and we’re doing business here right now.”
The store is closed while staff busily mark down items for the clearance sale, but some customers still filter through. One customer needed a jacket to attend a funeral. In an emergency, Patterson is always willing to make an exception.
In fact, it is precisely what Patterson says he will miss most — being such a solid, dependable part of the Dawson Creek community, and providing services that people have counted on for years.
“That’s tough, that’s the tough part of the whole decision,” he says.